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Miliband risks Sri Lanka’s wrath to support Global Tamil Forum – Times Online

[Times Online UK, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 22:37 No Comment]

Relations between Britain and Sri Lanka are likely to hit a new low after David Miliband addresses a meeting of Tamil activists from around the world at the Houses of Parliament today.

The Foreign Secretary is due to make the opening speech at the inaugural meeting of the Global Tamil Forum, which campaigns for selfdetermination for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamils and to bring to justice perpetrators of alleged war crimes during the island’s 26-year civil war.

William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, is to make the closing address to the meeting, which will be attended by several other MPs in an unprecedented display of cross-party support for Sri Lanka’s Tamils after the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

“It’s great support for us,” S. J. Emmanuel, the president of the forum, told The Times. “The British Government, more than any in the world, knows our history and are most competent to understand our situation.”

He said that the group advocated non-violence and an international boycott of Sri Lankan goods and wanted war crimes charges brought against Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, and Sarath Fonseka, the former army chief.

Sri Lanka’s Government is sure to be incensed as it regards many of the forum’s members, especially the British Tamils Forum, as fronts for the Tigers, who are banned as a terrorist organisation in the EU. Sri Lankan officials have long accused Britain of secretly supporting the Tigers.

The Foreign Office defended Mr Miliband’s decision to address the meeting. A spokesman said: “The UK firmly believes that the only way to achieve lasting and equitable peace in Sri Lanka is through genuine national reconciliation. The UK will engage with all members of the Sri Lankan community who share this goal, whether overseas or in Sri Lanka.”

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